In Cambodia, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, it also continues to affect societies and economies at their cores. In the country’s rural, central province of Kampong Thom, 48-year-old Sreyneth*, a street vendor selling desserts shares the same fate as many workers in the informal sector – a loss of income and little to no social security to fall back on.
According to research from ActionAid Cambodia, workers in the informal sector, including transport workers and street vendors like Sreyneth are likely to be left behind by existing intervention due to their mobility, working condition, and lack of social protection.
As a widowed mother to two children, Sreyneth faces many challenges and works from dawn to dusk to provide for her family. On a good day, if she sells enough dessert she can earn up to 5 or 6USD. However, when her community in Steung Sen town was badly affected by the outbreak from June to August 2021, she barely earned 2.5USD a day. As the sole breadwinner of the family, this wasn’t enough to support her family.
“Before [the pandemic, I could earn around 5$ a day. But during the outbreak, I could only earn 2.5$ a day as there are not many customers,” she explained.
A year ago, Sreyneth lost her husband, a local police officer, to a tragic accident. Now, without her husband’s income and a drop in her own income, she is struggling to provide for the family as well as pay back the loan she and her husband had taken out from a bank to send their eldest daughter to study in Phnom Penh, prior to the pandemic. As school went online, she also had to purchase a smartphone for her youngest son to keep up with his lessons and prepare himself for the national exam this year.
A Second Chance
To keep families like Sreyneth’s afloat, Aide et Action, in partnership with the European Union, The Advocacy and Policy Institute and local authorities, has begun to offer small scale business support in the form of capacity-building and tailored educational services to 180 communities in Kampot, Kandal and Pursat Provinces. In June 2021, as part of our Holistic Educational Strategies for Pro-Poor Community Development project, we offered Sreyneth the necessary materials to enlarge her business as well as training on food hygiene. Now, our team is visiting her regularly to provide guidance when needed.
Aide et Action’s support was enough to get her back on her feet. Shortly after, she was able to acquire an appropriate stall for her dessert business. Her food quality also improved and, as a result, she has been able to expand her business by adding another dish to the menu, which is helping her increase her income.
“Now, I have an appropriate place to install and sell my product,” said Sreyneth. “I have been able to add a new dish, Khmer Noodle, which helps me earn more money.”
Now, Sreyneth’s family’s economic situation has improved and she remains committed to sending her children to higher education. “I will send my son back to school [once school opens]. If he passes the exam, I will find a way to send him to continue his study in Phnom Penh,” she explained.
Enhancing Quality Education and Lifelong Learning
In partnership with the European Union and local authorities we are strengthening the capacity and accountability of the local communes to meet the needs of their community, particularly the needs of the most marginalised such as Sreyneth.
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the biggest disruption and highest level of uncertainty to education systems. Efforts to improve the access to quality education are more important now than ever. Aide et Action remains committed to the continuity of education and lifelong learning for all.
(*) Name is changed to protect the identity of vulnerable persons.